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Thinking Out Loud — Johnny Manziel

The NFL hasn’t experienced rookie hoopla like Johnny Manziel since, well, since Tim Tebow. There’s a reason why players dub the league “Not For Long.” Tebow had his fifteen minutes of Tebow Time in the NFL and it’s over. Debating whether Manziel will prove a star or another Tebow (or Colt McCoy, or Heath Shuler, or Ryan Leaf) is a hot topic. The real answer is that nobody knows, not even Johnny himself.

Maziel gave the finger to the Washington bench Monday night. Speaking on the Mike and Mike show, Washington safety Ryan Clark, leaked the trash talk that set Manziel off. It was akin to, “Hey kid, this ain’t college. We’re all faster than you.” Nothing much more than one of my favorite sayings: “The fastest player in college is the slowest player in the NFL.”

Few rookies break into the NFL with complete poise, but many shake off such comments. Other rookies undoubtedly heard similar things this weekend. Finger Gate tells me one very important thing about Manziel: the opponent got into his head, and quite easily. Elias Sports Bureau doesn’t compile “QB Winning Percentage After Defense Got In Your Head” statistics, but my educated guess is that it’s somewhere around zero for most QBs.

I’m coincidentally reading an excellent Bart Starr biography by John Devaney. Starr alluded to the perils of desiring “emotional revenge” on your opponent. Emotions distract you from your game plan and technique. Emotional decisions, on and off the field, lead to mistakes. Mental toughness is as important as physical toughness.

Recall of few of your favorite Super Bowls. Did the quarterback demonstrating the most composure win? This doesn’t just factor into the Super Bowl. Watch any big game with and pay attention. The mentally toughest of the two QBs on that day will most likely win.

Earlier we looked at the remarkably low number of quarterbacks to win Super Bowls. Some, like Manziel, possessed exciting athletic abilities in addition to a strong arm. Others wouldn’t impress you with their combine numbers. But the top ones had one thing in common — they defined mental toughness. Starr. Joe Montana. Terry Bradshaw. Mental toughness. Bob Griese. Tom Brady. Mental toughness. Jay Cutler. Catch my drift?

I don’t mean to pick on Cutler, but I do want to stress that quarterbacks who have a tendency to get rattled also have a tendency to lose. Especially in big games. Cutler plays very well at times, but when the defense is in his head, he’s awful. Indeed, most quarterbacks skills deteriorate when shaken, and that’s usually done with a flooding pass rush. Occasionally, however, players can take their opponents off their game.

People criticize Manziel’s lifestyle, but players with robust lifestyles can succeed. Joe Namath and Paul Hornung are two wonderful examples. Conversely, players who let on-field emotions get to them usually fail. Manziel must learn to shake off the talk before he experiences any real success in the NFL. Otherwise, it truly will be “Not For Long” for him.